Walthamstow (South Grove) to Ilford
Wednesday January 22nd 2014
Our previous route, the altogether more frequent and popular W15, had left us on the Higham Hill estate quite close to the reservoirs where we had walked following the W11. This is clearly some way from Walthamstow so we asked the driver how long he would be and after chatting during his 8 minute break he delivered us back to the start of the W15. When I say start I mean the evening start and finish points along South Grove, though we were travelling mid-day. For anyone who feels short-changed, here is the website for the Argall Industrial Estate.
South Grove itself is not short of modern industrial units and we were rather taken with the outlet that provides ‘all the trimmings’ for wedding banquets, so you have the right colour-matching bows on your chairs to your tableware and presumably bride’s outfits? There was also a branch of Turning Point, the charity which helps former substance users amongst others . In amongst these commercial projects there was a religious outlet also.
Fortunately this bus (run by an entirely different bus company from the W15) had altogether cleaner windows, and by mid-trip the sun was beginning to shine. Most routes run parallel to the railway, so the route eventually makes its way via Selborne Road back to the Walthamstow Bus Station – we were rather sorry, some more than others, to say goodbye to this very well arranged, resourced and (for a bus station) clean operation, as this was the last time we would pass this way.
Our progress down Hoe Street was very slow, the reasons for which were not altogether clear, though having 10 bus routes along here cannot exactly help. This gave us plenty of time to observe the local shops which completely typify the thesis of ‘Arrival City’, namely that the new arrivals set up local shops initially to serve their own incoming community and, if successful, then move on to bigger and maybe better things elsewhere leaving the units for the next generation of incomers. Thus it was no surprise to see the Romanian shop opposite the Polish shop interspersed with a Hydroponics shop, the Hornbeam Cafe, and Buzz Cutz (only a fiver) – in spite of its name Jo spotted the owner going in with rather more facial and head hair than his shop might suggest. Clearly we are not the only people to think Hoe Street is a happening place as it featured only last week in the evening free paper.
There was also a local school, by the name of Barclay, having a makeover following the amalgamation of some existing primaries, and we debated whether it would be bright blue and sponsored by the bank? The website certainly has pupils in bright blue blazers.
If it’s Hoe Street heading south it must be ‘The Bakers’ Arms’, with the pub of that name now only existing as a sign. It was important to preserve as it gave its name to the local area. The Almshouses (this could be a tongue twister the Arms almshouses---) are just set back and not visible from the bus, certainly not from a single decker, but it is good to see they have been cherished and are lived in.
From there we took a left along the Lea Bridge Road, where more shops caught our attention: a florist called ‘The Only Way is Flowers’ (though chocolates and wine never come amiss), a ‘Spy Shop’ and the offer of live Turkish Football at the pub.
Like the Ws 12 and 15 before us this route turns into the very non-cohesive Whipps Cross Hospital which must have a building from just about every decade except seemingly this one. Though the A&E was updated for the Olympics anything more radical appears to have been abandoned. It does have the UK’s first hyperbaric unit – apparently a sort of chamber which delivers pure and possibly healing oxygen.
The buses must take about 10 minutes to cross the Whipps Cross site there are so many corners, and of course they drive slowly to avoid any errant patients on the wander...
After exiting the hospital the bus takes a good few wriggles to deliver and take up passengers at the back of Leytonstone Station, which we thought had been landscaped probably in preparation for 2012 This route also allows the bus to cross over the very busy A12 before tackling the Green Man roundabout. Today we did not head on into Leytonstone but instead took a more scenic route across firstly Wanstead golf course then Wanstead flats.
The area seems to be known as Aldersbrook, though there is no station of that name and suddenly the houses fell away, and those that were still visible were bigger and more often detached, so on the right we saw ponds but no herons for Heronsgate Road and to the left the quite extensive City of London Cemetery and Crematorium. In fact it is one of London’s larger burial grounds and provides a shelter for an extensive range of trees, shrubs and other wildlife; it seems slightly strange that it is only served by this rather infrequent route and the Route101. Having come thus far we occasionally feel entitled to use ourselves as references!
The end of the ‘flats’ (after all an extension of Epping Forest) and sudden appearance of Manor Park Station as the transition between the open greenery and the more built up streets of Manor Park come as something of a shock. The traffic slowed here and before long we were passing under the North Circular, over the River Roding and navigating our way into Ilford past its very familiar landmarks – multiplex, library, Town Hall and theatre – Jo did spot that the Library has a museum so we may be back…
This would be, I think our 17th visit to, from or through Ilford but we bear it no ill will. We did once try to walk the one-way system (or was that Romford?) but as it has a pedestrianized high street and a frequent if grubby train service it has done us well.
The W19, OUR LAST SINGLE DECKER, had taken just under an hour going from North East London hub Walthamstow through older Leyton and Leytonstone out over the open spaces of Wanstead flats into Ilford which most definitely lies outside the North Circular both in period and feel.
That’s not quite all folks, we plan to ride our last bus, the X68 which leaves Russell Square at 15.50 PM heading for West Croydon. This will be NOW BE ON MONDAY February 10th 2014, in case the STRIKE goes ahead midweek.